The inaugural Equip Conference hosted by York University is in the books and from what everyone is saying, it was a home run! Beginning with Monday night’s presentation of the Holy Ghost Stories Live and continuing into Tuesday’s conference sessions and then on into the Clayton Museum of Ancient History’s annual Ides of March dinner and lecture, all in a span of 24 hours.

Dr. Garrett Best, chair of the Department of Bible and Ministry, envisioned and organized the Equip Conference and was thrilled with its success.

“Wow, what a powerful day! It superseded all my expectations,” said Best. “I underestimated God's provision and the hunger for a conference like this in the Midwest. I thought it would be a positive first year to have 30 attendees. We had 30 churches represented from 7 states!”

Designed to support and encourage the local church and ministry leaders, the sessions provided both practical and inspiring ways to share Jesus. 

To help jumpstart the inaugural conference, Justin and Jennifer “JL” Gerhardt were invited to campus and engaged YU students in three chapel (The Well) presentations, multiple guest lectures, breakout conversations in the cafeteria, and speaking at a campus devotional. The Gerhardts both spent years in ministry with the Round Rock congregation in Texas, Justin as the pulpit minister and JL as their storytelling minister before traveling the world with their two daughters. They are both world renowned due to their podcasts, books, and lectures.

On Monday evening the Bartholomew Performing Arts Center was packed to hear Justin deliver moving narratives on Rahab and Ezekiel. Fans of his Holy Ghost Stories podcasts flew in from as far away as Tennessee to hear these Bible stories come alive. If you have never heard of Justin’s ministry of bringing people into fresh encounters with God and Scripture, you are encouraged to listen to an episode. 

holy ghost stories

Keynoting Tuesday’s Equip sessions was Jim Tuttle from the Heartlands Church in Lincoln, Neb. He was given the daunting task of summarizing his 30 years of ministry and presenting what he concluded as the most important of truths. He boiled it down to Jesus is STILL Lord, saying, “The best ministry strategy is the ministry strategy of Jesus, to love and equip others to love and equip others,” and The Church is STILL the Hope of the World.

Workshop sessions led by Dr. Evertt Huffard for small churches were the highest attended at the conference. Those who participated in that workshop left energized to go back to their small churches and develop a vision to make a difference in the kingdom. Huffard, professor emeritus of the Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn., where he taught for more than 30 years, also gave the lecture on behalf of the Clayton Museum on Tuesday evening. Other Equip sessions were led by Caleb Smith (’14), Dr. Terry Seufferlein (’85), Glenn Dallmann, Jeff Hill, the Gerhardts, and Dr. Best. 

“We want the Equip Conference to be an oasis for ministry leaders in the Midwest,” Best went on to say. “We know that this is a difficult season to lead churches, and we want to partner with church leaders to do everything we can to support and encourage the local church. That is the vision for this conference, and we believe God has blessed York University with this unique opportunity to serve the church.”

Kevin Knight (’91) made the 7-hour drive to York and said the conference was perfectly planned for his busy schedule. Serving as the youth and family minister for the Eastside Church of Christ in Colorado Springs, Colo., Knight reflected on the need for events like Equip. “Ministry can be incredibly lonely; especially for those who are serving in more rural areas. Just to have a chance to get together with other ministers is more of a blessing than many realize! The fellowship and camaraderie is so vitally important and Equip gave many a chance to simply come together, to encourage, to share victories and struggles, and to learn not only from the program but from one another.”

There was one complaint that Dr. Best heard numerous times throughout the day of the conference. It went something like, "There are too many good sessions, and I can't make it to them all." 

Now that is the mark of a great conference!

The Equip Conference was underwritten with a grant from the Jerry O. Loutzenhiser Fund administered by the College Church of Christ in Searcy, Ark. Loutzenhiser, who died in 2021, dedicated his life to spreading the good news of Jesus in the upper midwest. He along with Lloyd Deal formed and ran Iowa Campaigns for Christ. It engaged in a decades-long, statewide outreach to thousands. He later ran similar programs in Minnesota and the Dakotas.